The 1980s and 1990s saw a steep decline in the fortunes of farmers, brought on by low commodity prices. This also resulted in a sharp rise in the number of suicides amongst farmers.
As a result of this, FCN was founded in 1995 by Christopher Jones MBE, who is now our Honorary President. It was set up as a joint venture between the Agricultural Christian Fellowship (ACF) and Germinate: The Arthur Rank Centre. It was founded under the name The Farm Crisis Network.
In 2001, farms in England and Wales were hit with 2,000 cases of foot-and-mouth disease. Over 10 million animals were slaughtered and thousands of businesses and jobs lost as a result. This led to a soaring number of suicides within the farming industry.
FCN became a key player in supporting farmers during the outbreak, with some volunteers working 18 hour days. More people became aware of the work of FCN, leading to an increase in recruitment within the charity. FCN was attracting more funding, allowing the national helpline to be developed. You can read a feature, called ‘Hope from the Ashes of Tragedy’, about the role FCN played during foot-and-mouth here.
From 2002-2008 the charity began to grow. The head office was centralised on Christopher Jones’ farm in West Haddon, appointing deputy director Helen Bagwell. The charity’s volunteers and referrals were increasing, driving the charity to become more efficient and process driven.
2008-2011 saw volunteers exceeding 300 alongside the newly appointed Executive Director Sarah Brown.
In 2011 Charles Smith was appointed FCN Chief Executive Officer. Relationships began to grow with several governmental and agricultural bodies becoming involved.
In 2013, The Farm Crisis Network changed its name to The Farming Community Network. There became a greater focus on fundraising and communications, developing FCN to a well-respected charity within farming and the voluntary sector.
In January 2020, following Charles Smith’s retirement, Jude McCann was appointed Chief Executive Officer. FCN has evolved from merely responding to farmers in crisis to providing a much more proactive support service that actively encourages farmers to seek help before their situation gets worse.
FCN’s aim now is to be much more focussed in helping build personal and business resilience in those that turn to us for help. To this end, in September 2019, we launched a brand new initiative called FarmWell.
FarmWell is a one-stop online resources hub to help you and your farm business stay strong and resilient. FarmWell is full of vital information from a wide variety of sources. It is free to use and it has three aims:
- To keep your farm business resilient through change
- To help you, your family and your staff to stay resilient through change and mentally well
- To provide support and help to anyone who needs it
You can start using FarmWell by visiting www.farmwell.org.uk.